COLUMBIA — Roller skaters, fishers and children eager to reach the playground made their way around Stephens Lake Park, seemingly oblivious to the Memorial Day get-together being held under Gordon Shelter.
The Veterans for Peace gathering was small, but many attendees have big names in the world of promoting non-violence. These include an MU adjunct professor who was arrested on the Quad for his Vietnam War protests, as well as a musician who once served a year in federal custody for protesting on a military base.
"We provide an alternate view and voice from what we usually hear on the holiday," said John Betz, a Vietnam War veteran and president of the Charlie Atkins Chapter of the organization.
This voice is that of veterans who have served their country and now feel they have a greater responsibility to serve the cause of world peace.
Members believe peace can be achieved in many ways, and Jeff Stack, coordinator of the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation, spoke about one of those ways.
Wearing a shirt that read, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind," Stack spoke to the roughly 30 people in attendance about military drones, unmanned aircrafts controlled by navigators with remote controls.
Stack described drones as "distant" because "operators see their targets as blips on a screen, not as human beings." He believes the United States military needs to abolish the use of such aircraft.
The Charlie Atkins Chapter works closely with the Department of Peace Studies at MU, sponsoring speakers such as Noam Chomsky and Amy Goodman. Betz said the public needs to be educated on the consequences of war.
"As if we're living in a perpetual state of college football, we're asked to get behind the team," Betz said. But the team's goal, he continued, is murder.
Kay Allen is not a member of Veterans for Peace, but she said she attended the peace gathering to "balance the downtown (Memorial Day) celebrations with something that's grounded in the people."
"I respect the people who serve, but I disagree with the means, the methods and the politics behind them," Allen said.
Betz suggests that a better method for achieving the nation's goals is the use of social movements, saying that "most of what we have that makes our lives good — civil rights, women's rights, gay rights — come from social movements."
"That's what we do, and you just do not hear that at these kinds of celebrations," Betz said.
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